Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Immigration and Customs Enforcement’

1st July 2011

During a recent exploration of the World Wide Web it came to this blogger’s attention that there are increasing numbers of websites reporting on issues associated with same sex marriage and the legal ramifications of such unions upon both the accordance of federal benefits and the issuance of United States visas. In a previous posting on this blog it was noted that the sovereign State of New York recently enacted legislation which would legalize same sex marriage in that jurisdiction. However, there are those who would argue that the struggle for LGBT Equality is far from finished. To provide further insight into these unfolding events it may be best to quote directly from the TheNation.com:

[W]hile this is certainly a moment to celebrate, same-sex couples in New York are not out of the woods yet. Because of the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) passed by Congress in 1996, the federal government does not honor any same-sex marriages performed in the states. So as thousands of gay and lesbian couples are married in New York over the coming months, the federal government will treat those legally married couples as strangers and deny them more than a thousand federal rights and protections of marriage, including Social Security spousal benefits, fair tax treatment and the right to sponsor a spouse for a visa or citizenship.

Readers are encouraged to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this interesting article in detail. As noted previously in multiple postings on this web log the provisions of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) create a situation in which the federal government precludes recognition of same sex marriage even where one of the sovereign American States has legalized and/or solemnized such a union. This has lead some to note that failure on the part of the federal government to recognize such unions results in something of an abrogation of the notion of Full Faith and Credit as enshrined in the United States Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause. That stated, some federal legislators, such as Representative Jerrold Nadler and Representative Mike Honda, have introduced legislation  such as the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), the Respect for Marriage Act, and the Reuniting Families Act which are designed to mitigate some of the discrimination imposed by application of DOMA. As of the time of this writing, however, none of the aforementioned legislation has been enacted.

Bearing in mind the facts noted above, the reader should note that there have been some other positive developments, albeit relatively minor, in the struggle for full equality. In order to shed further light upon these developments it may be prudent to quote directly from the website LGBTQNation.com:

Another battle which is loosening the Jenga pieces under this bigoted piece of legislation is the fight for immigration rights by bi-national couples. One such case that we’ve covered is that of Henry Valendia and Josh Vandiver, a legally married couple residing in New Jersey. Under DOMA, Valendia, a Venezuelan national, was denied legal residency. Last month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder vacated a decision made by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)…[S]ome incredible news came to the Valencia-Vandiver family on Wednesday in the form of a dismissal by Jane H. Minichiello, the chief counsel at the Newark office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and arm of the Homeland Security Department…

The administration of this web log asks readers to click upon the appropriate hyperlinks noted above to learn further details from this fascinating article.

It is certainly heartening to see that the United States government appears to have dismissed the proceedings related to this same sex bi-national couple. That stated, it is certainly possible that this may remain, at least for the time being, an isolated incident as the provisions of DOMA appear to still be in force. Hopefully, this case is the first in a long line of cases in which the LGBT community sees Full Faith and Credit and Equal Protection under the law of the United States of America.

For related information please see: US Visa Thailand.

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11th December 2010

The issue of immigration fraud is a serious one. Authorities of the United States government within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of State (DOS), the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the United States Customs and Border Protection Service (USCBP), and the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (USICE) are all tasked with the responsibility of screening and investigating matters pertaining to visa and immigration fraud. It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service, colloquially referred to as ICE, apprehended a Nigerian man in connection with US visa fraud. To quote directly from the ICE.gov website:

HOUSTON – A Nigerian man on Monday was stripped of his U.S. citizenship at his sentencing hearing for conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud, naturalization fraud, and making a false statement to a federal agency. The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno, southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Ibraheem Adeneye, 33, who is originally from Nigeria and became a naturalized U.S. citizen, was convicted of the charges May 7 by a jury. He has been in federal custody on these charges for about six months. U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt sentenced Adeneye to the time he has already served in prison. The judge also granted the government’s motion to strip Adeneye of his U.S. citizenship. Adeneye is now subject to deportation.

Denaturalization is the process by which a person is stripped of United States Citizenship and returned to foreign national status. Regarding the issue of sham marriage and the United States Immigration process, the report went on to note:

The ICE HSI investigation was initiated in 2008. Adeneye indicated that he was engaged in brokering sham marriages between Nigerian nationals and U.S. citizens so that the Nigerians could obtain immigration benefits, ultimately leading to U.S. citizenship. In return, the U.S. citizen “spouses” received cash payments to assist the Nigerians in the deception.

Incorporating a sham marriage into an effort to obtain United States visa benefits is a serious crime as can be seen from the above cited report. Those thinking of filing for American Immigration benefits should note that it is NEVER a wise course of action to lie to immigration authorities or attempt to deceive the United States government or its officers. Even if one becomes a United States Citizen, then previous fraudulent activity during the visa process could result in possible de-naturalization and criminal charges.

It should further be noted that those seeking American visa benefits should consult a licensed attorney in an effort to gain insight into the immigration process as only an American attorney licensed and in good standing in at least one US state is entitled to provide advice, counsel, and/or possible representation before the United States Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State.

For related information please see: K1 visa Thailand or K1 Visa Singapore.

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25th June 2010

Marriage Fraud as well as Immigration Fraud are a serious issues in the eyes of those agencies tasked with the job of adjudicating visa petitions and enforcing American law with regard to admission to the United States. With that in mind, it should be noted that domestically the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (USICE) has jurisdiction to enforce immigration regulations as well as decisions issued by Immigration courts. The following is a direct quote from a recently promulgated press release from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A U.S. citizen, who was paid to engage in a phony marriage with a Cambodian national to evade immigration laws, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court. The guilty plea resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Justin Michael Martin, 25, of Georgetown, Ky., pleaded guilty June 22 in the Western District of Kentucky
to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and marriage fraud. Martin admitted that between Jan. 1, 2000 and April 7, 2010, he knowingly reached an agreement with Yota Em, Phearoun Peter Em, aka Sophea Lim, and Michael Chanthou Chin to knowingly enter into a marriage to evade U.S. immigration laws. Martin admitted that Phearoun Peter Em drove Martin to a U.S.
Post Office in Lexington to apply for a U.S. passport, and that Phearoun Peter Em paid the passport
application fee. On June 17, 2004, Michael Chanthou Chin drove Martin and others to the Louisville airport. In exchange for a fee, Martin, Phearoun Peter Em, and others traveled from Kentucky to Cambodia. Once in Cambodia, Martin met with Cambodian national Yota Em and agreed to marry her to evade the immigration laws of the United States.


Photographs were taken of Martin and Yota Em during an engagement ceremony on June 25, 2004, and at other locations in Cambodia. While in Cambodia, members of the conspiracy paid for Martin’s lodging, food, transportation, sexual services from a Cambodian female, and other expenses.
On June 27, 2004, Martin returned to the United States and was met at the airport by Michael Chanthou Chin. Thereafter, certain immigration forms were completed by Martin and Yota Em, which falsely represented the marriage as genuine. On Sept. 27, 2005, Yota Em entered the United States using a K-1 (fiancée) visa. On March 5, 2007, Yota Em and Martin participated in a civil marriage ceremony in Lexington, knowing that the marriage was not entered into in good faith, was in exchange for something of value, and that the purpose of the marriage ceremony was to enable Yota Em to obtain U.S. permanent resident status in the United States. Phearoun Peter Em and Michael Chanthou Chin served as witnesses at the civil marriage ceremony.


Martin and Yota Em subsequently participated in a marriage interview with immigration officials in Louisville and falsely claimed that they married in good faith. Phearoun Peter Em acted as an interpreter for Yota Em. On June 30, 2009, Martin and Yota Em were divorced. The marriage between Martin and Yota Em was fraudulent and was entered into solely to evade U.S. immigration laws. Martin admitted that he was paid about $7,000 for participating in the marriage fraud scheme.
Defendant Yota Em is currently a fugitive. Anyone with information about her whereabouts should call 1-866-DHS-2ICE. The maximum potential penalties for Martin are 10 years’ imprisonment, a $500,000 fine, and supervised release for a period of six years.


Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Claire Phillips, Western District of Kentucky, is prosecuting the case. For more information, visit www.ice.gov.

It is unfortunate to see this type of fraud occurring as it makes it increasingly difficult for bona fide couples to receive immigration benefits due to the fact that the American government must expend resources in an effort to catch fraudulent visa petitions and applications. As time and resources are spent investigating visa fraud, the overall visa process for all applicants could slow down. That said, Officers of the United States government should be commended for their diligence in apprehending the individuals involved in the conspiracy noted above. Fraud Prevention is a serious issue that must be dealt with in order to forestall an erosion of the integrity of the US Immigration system.

In recent weeks it has been announced that fees associated with the K1 visa and the K3 Visa are increasing. There is speculation that the funds derived from the increase in fees will be used to combat immigration fraud on a wider scale as the fee is being increased by the Department of State for those applications filed at a US Consulate or US Embassy abroad. Many feel that the funds will likely be used to increase the resources available to each Fraud Prevention Unit attached to US Missions overseas. Hopefully, by increasing resources available to Fraud Prevention Units outside of the USA, there will be fewer people entering the United States illegally based upon sham relationships.

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2nd March 2010

Recently, the Immigration Policy Center issued a so-called progress report for the Department of Homeland Security. For regular readers of this blog it may be recalled that the Department of Homeland Security has jurisdiction over the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the Customs and Border Protection Service (CBP) as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). To quote the Immigration policy center blog:

“The month of March marks the seventh anniversary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its immigration agencies. It also marks the end of a sweeping internal review ordered by Secretary Janet Napolitano, a review which as not been made public. In order to assess the first year of immigration policy under the Obama Administration, the Immigration Policy Center releases the following Special Report which compare DHS’s actions with the recommendations (Transition Blueprint) made to the Obama Transition Team’s immigration-policy group. How does DHS stack up? The following IPC report finds a department caught between the competing priorities of old broken policy and new reforms. While DHS has failed to meet key expectations in some areas, it has engaged thoughtfully and strategically in others, and has made some fundamental changes in how it conducts its immigration business.”

The report itself is quite long and provides detailed information about ways in which USCIS and DHS can improve their organization. One of the most interesting recommendations calls for a concerted plan for integrated immigrants into the tapestry of American life. To quote the report directly:

“The Administration should create a national integration strategy, establish a National Office on Immigrant Integration, and gather data on the impact of government policies on immigrants, and coordinate agency decisions that affect them.”

This report went further and advocated for certain changes in the way that USCIS handles adjudications of applications and petitions for Immigration benefits:

“USCIS must clearly articulate the principles it uses to evaluate and adjudicate individual cases, and must address the complaints of recent years that too many people are denied benefits, or subjected to repeated requests for additional evidence, because adjudicators are looking for reasons to deny rather than grant benefits. Fee waivers and discretionary waivers should be applied more broadly, particularly where individuals in proceedings have immediate family members who are U.S. citizens.”

Although this author does not necessarily agree wholeheartedly with all of the assertions in this progress report, there is no doubt that there is room for improvement in any organization and the Department of Homeland Security is no different. That being said, it is a tremendous task to ascertain where resources are most needed and allocate them accordingly. Therefore, we applaud the Department’s efforts at improve the system while encouraging DHS to continue to strive for greater efficiency tempered with a respect for the due process rights of all concerned.

For more information on this and other topics related to American Immigration please see: US Visa Thailand or K1 Visa Thailand.

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30th August 2009

The United States Department of Homeland Security recently announced rule changes that will effect those traveling to the United States of America. Under the new rules, clearer lines have been drawn with regard to searches of media devices belonging to those entering the USA. To quote an official press release from the US Department of Homeland Security:

“The new directives address the circumstances under which U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can conduct border searches of electronic media—consistent with the Department’s Constitutional authority to search other sensitive non-electronic materials, such as briefcases, backpacks and notebooks, at U.S. borders.”

These new rules will have an important impact upon those Americans residing in Thailand who return to the United States of America on a regular basis. These rule changes are even more important for the fiance or spouse of a US citizen traveling to the United States on a K1 or K3 visa. In many cases, the Thai fiancee or spouse has a less than perfect grasp of the English language and therefore cannot adequately communicate with the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Officers. Therefore, it may be wise for the American citizen loved one to research the situation in order to explain to the Thai entrant the possible issues that may arise at the port of entry into the United States.

One interesting aspect of this rule change deals with the right of the person being searched to be present while the search takes place:

Searches of electronic devices should be conducted in the presence of the individual whose information is being examined unless there are national security, law enforcement, or other operational considerations that make it inappropriate to permit the individual to remain present. Permitting an individual to be present in the room during a search does not necessarily mean that the individual will be permitted to witness the search itself. If permitting an individual to witness the search itself could reveal law enforcement techniques or potentially compromise other operational considerations, the individual will not be permitted to observe the search itself.

It is important to note that the United States government has a great deal of unfettered search authority because they consider someone who has not actually been admitted into the US to be outside of the jurisdictions of the US constitution. Therefore, since the constitution does not apply, then normal rules restricting unlawful search and seizure do not apply. This can have a major impact upon an alien seeking entry to the USA, because they will not be accorded the same legal protections as they would after having been admitted.

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21st June 2009

Crossing Over utilizes multiple perspectives to tell the story of immigrants from different countries aspiring to obtain Lawful Permanent Resident Status in the USA. The movies touches upon the issues of illegal border crossing, false documentation, asylum status, green card obtainment procedures, workplace enforcement, adjustment of status, naturalization, and counter terrorism.

It was interesting to watch this film because it depicted all of the different United States agencies and offices that oversee the immigration process. The film also provided exposure about what United States Immigration officers are deputized to do. That being said, I felt it was a massively unfair portrayal of the personal character traits of most of the officers in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The portrayal at the beginning of the film made it seem as though all ICE officers were heartless authoritarian brutes. In reality, I doubt this portrayal is accurate. I understand the reason for this less than flattering depiction: it was used to contrast Harrison Ford’s relative compassion when compared against his colleagues. From this standpoint, one can give the filmmakers some leeway on this point.

In another plot line of the film Ray Liotta plays a corrupt USCIS officer who uses his position as a top level adjudicator to bequeath a Green Card upon an aspiring actress in exchange for sleeping with him. If I was a USCIS officer I would be infuriated by this depiction. Its not that corruption doesn’t occur, but that portrayals such as this make it seem as though all employees of the agency lack an ethical compass, which I am sure is not the case.

Overall, I liked the movie because it brought up some interesting human issues, but from the context of United States Immigration I think it portrayed the government as all, or nearly all, bad.

I will say that I liked Ashley Judd’s performance as a United States Immigration attorney although it seemed somewhat stilted in places. Also, there were a few instances in the movie where I felt the attorney Judd played should have been more zealously advocating on behalf of her client. Can we say, “writ of habeas corpus?”

In closing, this was one of Harrison Ford’s best movies in years, which is not saying much if you have seen Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The movie had an all-star cast and I would argue it had no particular main character, which was interesting. The film effectively drew together multiple plot threads and culminated in some very moving sequences. I would recommend this film to anyone who is interested in the Immigration process or just enjoys well made films.

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